TUTORIAL: Dyeing Elastic

by Dana on July 6, 2008

The other day I was on the hunt for colored elastic; WIDE colored elastic. It’s easy to find white and black in fabric shops, but no one seems to carry the colored variety! I guess most people aren’t using exposed elastic on their projects. But if you’re into making Circle Skirts, a little variety would be great!

A friend tipped me off to this ebay shop that sells webbing (which is similar but feels more like 80s wrist bands; more for athletic clothing). I just wasn’t content. So, duh….why not dye it!
And that’s just what I did.
For additional tips on Dyeing fabric, please read through our other tutorial first:

There are many simple dyes on the market. I’ve heard varying opinions about which brands works best. But since they’re pretty cheap ($2-$4 each) buy a few and try them out to see what works for you! I typically use RIT or Dylon.

The process here is very simple.
You need: elastic, dye, water, a bowl and spoon, and gloves. That’s it!

A quick note about Elastic:
Most elastics found in fabric shops are about 80% polyester, 20% rubber. You’ll find some that are a cotton/rubber blend and actually absorb the dye better than polyester elastic. However, I’ve only seen cotton elastic in 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch wide. If anyone has a source for WIDE cotton elastic, please leave a link in the comments!
Okay, let’s get started.

Grab your dye.
I used this Lemon Yellow RIT powder dye. It worked fine/great. But moving forward I think I’ll stick with the liquid variety. Liquid costs twice as much but it mixes better with the water and ensures a more even dye bath. If the powder isn’t dissolved entirely into the water (like mixing koolaid) you may end up with a spot here or there of concentrated dye on your fabric or elastic.
Grab a large bowl and spoon (I have a designated set that I always use for dyeing).
Fill it with the hottest water you can get from your tap. You don’t need to boil the water; just use what comes out of your pipes.
Mix in the dye
, till it’s completely dissolved and mixed well:
Then throw in your elastic (or other items). Don’t overcrowd the bowl or your items won’t get an even dye. But don’t waste the chance to turn plain white into lemon yellow! If you have an extra baby onesie or a white T-shirt, throw them in too! Make the most of your dyeing efforts.
With gloves on, stir, squish, and move the elastic around in the dye. Do this for a few minutes and then you can walk away for a bit. Every 5-10 minutes come back and stir, squish, and move the elastic around. Leave the elastic in for as short or as long as you like. The finished product will typically look lighter than it does in the dye bath, so keep that in mind.
I left these elastics in for 1 hour.
When you’re at the desired color, dump out the water.
And rinse it a few times.
Beautiful yellow! Now throw it in the washing machine and run a normal cycle, then dry it in the dryer (or air dry). The only downside to the project is that it uses a fair amount of water. So I usually find ways to cut back on my other water consumption for the day to balance it out.
And…..you have colored elastic!
Here’s a sample of elastics from the RIT dye bath. All were left in for 1 hour. The cotton elastic on the far right dyed best. But I was very pleased with the Polyester elastic and will definitely be trying this again with other colors:
Elastic dyeing couldn’t be easier!

Of course, different dyes may give you different results (which is why I recommend trying a few brands out and also why I stick with the above method for dyeing). I decided to branch out and tried a new dye called iDye Poly, specifically recommended for dyeing Polyester. But the process went poorly.
It involved powdered dye, a liquid color intensifier, and boiling on the stove.
I followed the instructions,
But I never felt like the powder was completely dissolved.
And when I put the elastic in, it turned out like this, with big splotches of dye everywhere:
It wasn’t messy enough to actually look cool or intentional. But I washed it up anyway and I’ll use it for other projects that have hidden elastic in a casing:
It may have been my own errors using the dye; perhaps other people have had better results. But for now, I’ll stick with my hot water/bowl method above.

Well, the only remaining question is…..what should you do with your lovely dyed elastic???
Make a Circle Skirt of course!

You’ll find the complete Tutorial for women and girls HERE.

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marinda January 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Thank you for sharing this information. I was trying to find 2″ wide colored elastic to make my girls a skirt and came across your site. I will be using it a lot in the future!!

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2 nadine July 20, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Craft warehouse carries really nice 2” colored elastics, some even are polka dots.

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3 Kyla January 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm

It looks like I just found some cotton elastic in 4 and 6 inch!
http://www.designeralleyfabrics.com/CartGenie/prod-157.htm

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4 Kyla January 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Here is some really cute wide elastic on ETSY!!!! They have stripes! :)

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5 Kyla January 29, 2012 at 5:14 pm
6 Kim Turner February 2, 2012 at 7:49 am

Thanks for the fantastic tutorial. The photographs were really clear and very helpful. Is it possible to save (and reuse) the dye that you tipped out once you finished dying your elastic?
Kim

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7 Dana February 2, 2012 at 8:28 am

Hmmm, you could probably do that. You might need to warm up the water again though…maybe on the stove.
Glad it worked out well for you!

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8 Amanda February 9, 2012 at 12:11 am

Hey Dana,
Love your site and your tutorials are amazing! I was wondering, can you share where you get your elastic from? I’m having a hard time finding large amounts of it, I’ve been making skirts for myself and my teammates for rollerderby but the elastic is costing me a fortune!
Thanks,
Amanda

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9 Dana February 9, 2012 at 12:28 am

I’ve mostly purchased it at Joanns. You can buy it online from their site too. Or try etsy or ebay. Hope that helps!

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10 NeoMe February 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Thank you for your vivid photos of the process. I too just recently had an epiphany about “hey, why don’t I just dye the elastic I need in the colors I want…duhh.” I used the liquid Rit, I got the dark brown. So, I omitted the hot water (was that wrong?), I poured the entire bottle of dark brown liquid dye into a plastic bowl and added 1/4 cup of salt. Then I put in my 3 strips of 1/2″ white braided elastic into the bowl and sealed it overnight on the counter. The reason I didn’t dilute with water is because I thought I might get a darker more richer brown, which is exactly what I need.

Next day, I pick the elastic out of the dye and proceed to rinse them in the sink, to my everlasting dismay, the color was like a beige, I’ve bought flesh tone elastic at craft stores that were more dark!

What happened, was it me?

My next grand idea, use fabric markers/paint. The paint isn’t working too well (turns the elastic into plastic), the fabric markers…expensive!

What should I do?

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11 Ashley February 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm

NeoMe – you could try coloring it with a sharpie. I’ve done that on projects that I only needed a small amount of elastic so it didn’t take very long and once the marker dries it doesn’t rub off.
I’ve only used the liquid dye once before and I added the hot water like it calls for on the bottle and had wonderful results. Maybe worth trying again with the water added. I’ve also heard that using boiling water can speed up the dying process.

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12 CP November 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm

RIT is not meant to dye synthetic fabrics, so if your elastic was polyester, that would be the reason you didn’t get a strong color. Some colors may dye a deeper color than others (I’m actually surprised the yellow took as well as it did for Dana), but notice even for the yellow the cotton dyed a deeper color than the synthetic. If you want deep colors with dye, you’ll need to use a cotton blend elastic.

Also for everyone here, realize that using RIT for synthetics, or Sharpies for anything, may not be very colorfast. It may wash out over time and eventually may even go back to white. For the best colorfastness, use a cotton blend elastic and a fiber-reactive dye (rather than RIT).

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13 Azshab March 6, 2012 at 2:55 am

beautiful i didnt get my hands in dying elastic but look foreward to the near ,near near,near,neeeaaaarrrr(wait almost there;)}rrrrrr- future LOL but i just did a little twist with mine ! it can be seen on my blog on the little girl skirts I think you’ll find them. beautiful also ;)

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14 Sarah March 26, 2012 at 9:32 pm

What brand of elastic did you use for this? I just want to make sure I buy the right thing. I’m still a bit of a novice, but I love this skirt and want to make several for my 2 year old!

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15 Dana March 26, 2012 at 11:17 pm

I used 2 inch knit or braid elastic from Joanns. You can usually buy in their online store as well.

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16 Jillian March 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

I’ve been having trouble getting the elastic to take the dye. It would be great if I wanted only pastel elastic but how do you get bright colors? I tried leaving it for hours and it’s still a muted color..

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17 Dana March 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm

It’s hard to get bright colors since most elastic is polyester based and most store-bought dyes work better with cotton than polyester. I’ve only had luck with pastels as well. But Joanns just started carrying bright elastic colors in their stores! It only comes 1-inch wide. But they have hot pink, gray, purple, turquoise, brown, and some other colors!

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18 Anna April 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm

For everyone reading this: please only use containers and pots that YOU DO NOT EAT OUT OF, to dye your fabrics. I saw the picture of the pot on the stove and was a bit worried about there not being any warning. I do not have a dye specific vat at home, so I soak my dye in hot water in the washing machine with some salt before sending it through the cycle.

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19 Azshab April 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm

thanks for the tip! I will be using it ! ;)

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20 granny April 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Does the elastic fade on the skirt when you launder it?

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21 Cassidy May 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm

the first art shop i went to only had liquid RIT in kelly green and i was searching for bright yellow…however, they had iDye in every single color imaginable, so I decided to ignore your advice and go for the iDye allowing extra time for the powder to dissolve. Big mistake. Horrible streaking just like you described, but the yellow color I got was amazingly rich. Went to a different store to get the yellow liquid RIT which came out this super pale yellow, which was pretty, but not at all what I was looking for! Finally was able to located Dylon and switched to Flamingo Pink, which gave me the saturated hue I was looking for…

Really frustrating about the iDye, especially since a lot of the stores here in SF are switching over to carrying just that as opposed to the liquid dye…pretty sure it has to do with the sexy packaging. Oh well. Now I know :)

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22 Annrea Disharoon June 29, 2012 at 9:01 am

You might want to check out http://www.atlantathread.com for elastic. I’m not sure if they will carry cotton 3 inch elastic but it is where I get most of my sewing accessories at a economical price.

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23 Sarah Jane Nelson September 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Thank you! I’m putting together a new packaging for my jewelry store and it involves elastic. I was bummed when I discovered that it only comes in black and white and would like to dye it a little more off-white/cream. I found your tutorial very helpful (and beautiful to look at!) I’m thinking I’ll do a tea mixture to get the off-white, natural color I want. Do you have any tips for dying in tea? Also, do you think that dying the elastic will create the possibility that the dye will rub off onto my boxes? How to I make sure the color is not going to bleed? Thanks!!! :) Sarah Jane

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24 Jamie Nicole October 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I’m looking to dye elastic for some suspenders I will be making for my son. Your tutorial was very helpful, thank you.

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25 michelle October 17, 2012 at 9:55 am

I am seriously kicking myself…why didn’t I think of this! I really did have a DUH moment when I saw this post. Few weeks ago I ordered wide coloured elastic from the USA and paid insane shipping fees and I still don’t have it. This would have been much easier! DUH! Thanks for the tip..I will be trying this!

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26 Kimberly November 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Hi Ashely, just wanted to add some of my tips for dyeing with iDye. First of all I don’t break open the bag, I dissolve the bag in a small container of hot-HOT water… I wait until it’s completely dissolved until I add it to the dye bath. At first the bag with the dye in it is kind of goopy then with stirring it is better.

I’m also super lazy and now use a portable washing machine to dye clothes. Here’s my tute for that http://www.westmamadesigns.org/2012/10/29/tutorial-hand-dyeing-clothes-using-a-portable-washing-machine/

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27 Tara November 21, 2012 at 10:26 am

Hi, love the project. I bought the liquid dye and the 2″ elastic for my twin daughters skirts. I did not see anywhere that you added vinegar or salt. Did you only use hot water? Thanks!

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28 Kathy November 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I dyed my 3″ elastic today. Everything had been assembled for a week but I was nervous about actually doing it. It was easy and looks so good with my skirt fabric. White elastic would definitely NOT have looked good. I’m so excited!

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29 courtney January 19, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Any suggestions on how to dye the elastic dark black? I left mine in Rit black dye for 1 1/2 hours and it wouldn’t get darker than what resembles a navy blue color.

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30 Beth February 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm

When I dying cloth, lace and small items, I use an old juice jug that has a wide cap. Once all my items are in, I only have to shake it once in while to keep it stirred. Works great!

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31 Sandy March 24, 2013 at 8:01 pm
32 Heather October 28, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I think these are more like ace bandages. I suspect they would lose their elasticity quickly and would not be heavy-duty enough for most applications where you would be using wide elastic. They may work in place of ribbing, like at the bottom of long sleeves, but i don’t think they would have much memory and again would get stretched out quickly.

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33 Lindsey April 9, 2013 at 1:45 am

Hi! I love your tutorials. This one was really great and straightforward–I’ve already dyed two big pieces of elastic with it! :)

Just wondering, how does the color hold up after repeated washes? So far I’ve only washed my elastic the once after dying it (haven’t sewed anything yet), but I’m wondering if I should plan on hand-washing any clothes I make with it to avoid having the color fade.

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34 Abbie April 26, 2013 at 12:11 am

Have you ever dyed elastic brown? I am trying to make a maxi skirt with the exposed elastic and I am having trouble. I go the rit dye in dark brown and it comes out purple gray. Haven’t tried the regular brown. Any help would be great. Thank you

Abbie

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35 Dana April 26, 2013 at 12:14 am

I haven’t tried brown….but all colors are going to turn out lighter than you would expect b/c the elastic is mostly polyester and doesn’t die as well as cotton. Sorry about that :(

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36 Demetria April 30, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Yes, I have been looking for elastic in other colors for for other projects and this solves my problem! Thanks so much for all of your trials and tribulations finding how dyeing elastic works! I am going to do! Demetria

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37 Claire May 31, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I have not tried it, but Dharma trading has a dye that they say works with most nylon products, so it should work with polyester. Their regular dyes are listed as working on most fabrics – I used their regular dye to dye a t-shirt burgundy, and it has held its colour really well. Their shipping rates are very reasonable.
Their website:
http://www.dharmatrading.com

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38 CP November 25, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Nylon does not take dye like other synthetics – it works with animal-fiber dyes unlike other synthetics. Synthetics are far more variable with dye uptake than natural fibers, and it’s best to use a dye that mentions the specific fiber you’re working with. Although a nylon dye might work for other synthetics, I would not assume so.

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39 Sieanna June 3, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Thank you so much for your post! I am making a crop top and midi skirt set and I needed a peach colored elastic to compliment the set. I am trying this method tonight. (cross fingers) Wish me luck! :)

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40 Megan June 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I loved your tutorial! But I’m trying it and it seems that the elastic just won’t take the dye. It looks like it does, but as soon as I rinse it, all the dye is washed off. I do it with the Rit liquid dye and the hot water in the bowl. I leave it in for 30+ mins. It is a polyester band but I thought it would take even a little bit of the dye. Not sure what I’m doing wrong :( Any suggestions?

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41 justine June 9, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I tried this method with Rit and the dye washed out. I’ve heard fabric paint works really well,too?

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42 Jennifer June 16, 2013 at 10:51 am

I never thought about doing this but I am going to do this for sure!

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43 carla July 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm

fyis…
Yes you can save and reuse Rit dye, but you do need to reheat it to get most materials to accept the dye AND a leaky container of dye can spell disaster. Each subsequent use of the dye usually yields a slightly different color. This is because the individual colors in the package are taken up by your material at different rates.
You can buy dyes directly from the Rit Dye website. They not only have loads of colors, they also have “recipes” for making other colors using their dyes.

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44 Jackie August 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm

This web sight has 3″ cotton elastic, but your right, it only comes in black and white. Your tutorial is a big help, Thanks

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45 Bethany September 11, 2013 at 7:19 am

I did this last night! White elastic turned pink elastic! It was perfect!! Thank you!

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46 CPack September 12, 2013 at 11:36 am

Hello! Love the tutorial! I am currently looking for colored elastic to make suspenders and it hit me I might just have to dye white. So I’m happy I found your tutorial. Question…have you ever dyed braided elastic vs. knit? If so, does the braided elastic take to the dye just as well as knit? The braided elastic seems like it would be better for suspenders. Ever made suspenders?

Thanks a bunch!

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47 Heather October 28, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Thanks for the tute! I never even considered dyeing elastic because it was polyester. Now I know to give it a go. :)

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48 Lorna November 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Thank you very much….I have several projects that I am working on and could only find white or black elastic. It is amazing what you can find on line….thank you!

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49 Debby Haines January 1, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I want to make something called carpet sliders for wearing over my tennis shoes in a zumba class which is in a carpeted room; without the sliders the shoe bottoms grip too much to turn. I found instructions for making your own (you can buy them also, but I’m too cheap) with satin ribbon on the bottom and elastic on top . . . it’s basically just a circle and the satin ribbon provides a slippery surface between the shoe and the carpet. BUT, I want the elastic to be the same color as my shoes so they don’t look so obvious (some people in my class have purchased hot pink ones, pink for breast cancer is good but they are too brilliant for me). Anyway, I plan to dye the elastic gray. I dye things all the time and had already thought of it, but I didn’t expect to find such good instructions.

For people who are having trouble with the dye washing out, try dying in a pot on the stove at a simmer.

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50 Debby Haines January 1, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Forgot to say, RIT dye is SO cheap. Don’t be afraid to double up for a darker color, especially if your desired color rinses out. I mix colors all the time to get the shade I want. For example, someone wanted a deeper yellow than the powder gave . . . consider adding a small amount of orange or even red for a brighter, more vibrant color.

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51 Joey January 8, 2014 at 7:27 am

I also went against your iDye Poly advice, but only because the red Dylon I bought didn’t work AT ALL, and I’m having a rough time finding Rit in anything other than navy and black in Australia. The water was still tepid when I mixed the ingredients together, and I did it in a very small saucepan, but the red turned out nicely, both on the elastic and on a couple of other items I dyed. It gave a very rich color to the cotton-poly socks I dyed, a much truer color than I have ever had with Rit (although iDye Poly doesn’t recommend using the product on natural fabrics).

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52 Jennifer January 23, 2014 at 6:39 am

I died my 3” elastic a light brown color, and it came out blue. It’s a gorgeous color and ended up matching the skirt I was pairing it with, but I wonder why this happened. Perhaps one of the main colors within the brown was blue..? The onesies and other items I died came out the light brown.

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53 Barbara May 16, 2014 at 10:34 am

I am dying elastic red. I bought the “knit” elastic at Joanne’s. I bought liquid rit dye. Do I need salt or vinegar?

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54 Mary June 5, 2014 at 9:23 am

Hi all, I completed a short course on bra making, but when I tried to buy the colourful elastics, i found them unavailable in UK, so I thought to dye my elastic. I made enquiries to DYLON who told me that elastic cannot be dyed, and so questioned how bought bras are dyed. She told me that its because its was at the chemical stage ??????

Having viewed your website, I AM GOING TO GIVE IT A GO,
I am going to research this further, if they do it, then we can do it. I want my bra straps to be the same colour as my fabrics.

what is plush back elastic made from????

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55 Niklas July 10, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I blog often and I truly thank you for your content. This article has truly peaked my
interest. I’m going to bookmark your website and keep checking for new
information about once a week. I opted in for your Feed too.

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56 Jessie M. July 14, 2014 at 1:16 am

This is fantastic. I was looking for a cute yellow elastic belt to pair with an Aquaman inspired swing dress and all of the ones I have found are so expensive! Now I can spend half as much and make one!

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57 Jessie M. July 14, 2014 at 1:17 am

I didn’t want to spend more on the belt than I did on the fabric for the dress.

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58 Linda Rousay September 10, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I love dyes but have found that the liquid is much more consistent in providing true colors. (I have never found a way to make a true black dye, BTW).
Slightly Off topic: Beautiful browns can be achieved using tea bags put in boiling water. Any shade from light cream to dark brown is possible. Especially for dyeing eyelets and vintage type fabrics.

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59 Jen September 12, 2014 at 9:16 am

Thanks for this, I didn’t know if elastic would take dye. I have exposed elastic on boots I bought for a Trojan Halloween costume and the brown elastic that runs on the backside is just too snug for my calves, so I’m going to try this to replace the current elastic on them. Thanks!!!

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60 Samantha Boynton October 6, 2014 at 11:48 am

I’m making a circle skirt for Halloween and I would love to dye the elastic a goldish color. Any recommendations? Thank you

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